The first round favorites look pretty safe in the South, with the notable exceptions of Arizona as a tossup against the Vanderbilt/Wichita State winner, and Connecticut as a clear upset winner against the “favored” 8-seeded Colorado. From there the bottom half of this bracket is up for grabs, and Maryland/California should be close as well.
Kansas is as close to a favorite as there is in this tournament, but they were paired against a brutally strong #2 in Villanova. Either is a very reasonable pick to win the region.
Once again our model shows the #9 seed as the clearly better team, Cincinnati over St. Joe’s. We also show the #10 seed VCU as an expected upset. If you’re looking for a #12 seed Cinderella, Yale could surprise against Baylor. In the second round, top-seed Oregon is a tossup to beat the 8/9 winner and if they do they’ll likely fall in the next game.
This region is as wide open as it gets. We’ve got Oklahoma as the most likely team to advance, but Duke, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, and even the top seed Oregon are all very reasonable picks.
The two clearest first round upset chances here are the 11-seeded Michigan/Tulsa winner against 6-seed Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh against 7-seed Wisconsin. 2-seed Xavier is in trouble in the 2nd round against the Pittsburgh/Wisconsin winner.
North Carolina and West Virginia are most likely to win this region, though the Kentucky/Indiana winner could give UNC a scare.
We like Gonzaga to exceed their seed and upset 6-seed Seton Hall, and even though Syracuse is getting a lot of heat for getting in the tournament, our model has them upsetting 7-seed Dayton.
We like Michigan State to win this region over Virginia with Purdue as a potential darkhorse.
Our model has no clear favorite, with Michigan State, Kansas, and Virginia as the top of a bunched pack. Villanova, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and North Carolina all have reasonable chances to win the championship this year.
So who do you pick? Any of those are fine choices. This isn’t a bad year to try a #2 seed in Michigan State in many pools. If you need a deep longshot, 5-seed Purdue is the most likely high-seed to surprise.